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  1. #1
    hazelnut is offline Newbie
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    Default -tial or -cial ?

    suffixes for adjectives: -tial & -cial

    financial, commercial, beneficial

    but: influential, essential, reverential

    Why are some words spelt with 'c' and others with 't'? Is there a rule?

  2. #2
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by hazelnut View Post
    suffixes for adjectives: -tial & -cial

    financial, commercial, beneficial

    but: influential, essential, reverential

    Why are some words spelt with 'c' and others with 't'? Is there a rule?
    No. (Or, to put it another way, yes - if you know a vast amount about etymology ). At a guess (the history of English isn't something I've studied much) the ones with a c were imported from words that had the Latin ending -cialis and the ones with t were imported as nouns from French, ending with -ce and had their adjectives constructed by someone who knew that the Latin noun (e.g. influentia -ae) had a t. Spellings tended to be imposed by scholars, and so have had a long time to acquire the appearance of total randomness!

    But that's only a guess, and in any case it doesn't lead to a rule that's of any use to an ELT student. Sorry - good question (I hadn't noticed the inconsistency, so thanks ).

    b

  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Aha! Better idea (also to do with the history of lexicography, but as it concerns printers rather than scholars.) It was presumably easier for a caster of type to produce a ligature between n and t.

    But students don't need to know this, if the rule is '-cial unless preceded by n, in which case it's -tial'. (I don't at the moment say that it is a rule, but I can't think of a counter-example - in a modern text. There used to be a lot of variation.)

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 26-Nov-2010 at 15:32. Reason: fix typo

  4. #4
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Aha! Better idea (also to do with the history of lexicography, but as it concerns printers rather than scholars.) It was presumably easier for a caster of type to produce a ligature between n and t.

    But students don't need to know this, if rule is '-cial unless preceded by n, in which case it's -tial'. (I don't at the moment say that it is a rule, but I can't think of a counter-example - in a modern text. There used to be a lot of variation.)

    b
    financial?

  5. #5
    birdeen's call is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    financial?
    "Financial" is certainly problematic if we want to make our rule Latin-dependent. It never existed in Latin.

  6. #6
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    "Financial" is certainly problematic if we want to make our rule Latin-dependent. It never existed in Latin.
    I don't think BobK's rule was Latin-dependent.

    BobK?

  7. #7
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I don't think BobK's rule was Latin-dependent.

    BobK?
    My OED says that "finance" is from Old French.

  8. #8
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I don't think BobK's rule was Latin-dependent.

    BobK?
    Oh dear, I seem to have acquired an eponymous rule And to make it worse, I've found numerous counter-examples. Some of them are obscure enough for most people to ignore them - abbatial, equinoctial, inertial and interstitial. But others are not so easy to explain away: initial, nuptial, partial, spatial... there are probably more. Thanks to fivejedjon for the -nc- exception - all the ones I'd found were -[no N]t- .

    To answer the 'Latin-dependent' question, my surmise was not exclusively Latin-dependent. I was saying that in order to predict the spelling it would be necessary to know a word's provenance. Latin comes into the story in many cases.

    Back at 'the rule'. I think it works as a rule of thumb. So far we've only come up with a handful of exceptions, and there are very many more 'regular' examples (Latin regula [='a rule'] - all the words derived (either directly or indirectly) from a Latin present participle. for example: substantial, penitential, existential, influential ... etc etc.

    b

  9. #9
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    Oh dear, I seem to have acquired an eponymous rule
    I was eponymising (?) the rule only for -ncial/-ntial words. It seems to be sound for these - so far I have found the only exception. Now there's a challenge for somebody!

  10. #10
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: -tial or -cial ?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I was eponymising (?) the rule only for -ncial/-ntial words. It seems to be sound for these - so far I have found the only exception. Now there's a challenge for somebody!
    One Look has the power: Words that match the pattern "*ncial" - OneLook Dictionary Search Most people could probably get along without internuncial or quincuncial, but some of the others (like provincial) are more indispensable; and why isn't that 'less dispensable'?

    b

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